If you’re currently working out and hitting a plateau, this is for you. Most people who work out on a regular basis get to a point where they come to a plateau…meaning, they continue to work out but their weight loss and athletic performance doesn’t improve. Most people tend to do the same workouts day after day and either walk, swim, use an elliptical or bike with the same amount of time and speed. Our bodies adapt to these exercises and instead of improving, our bodies just get used to the exercise. When we work out at a moderate pace with moderately easy exercises, as most people do, you will never get anything more than moderate results. Yes, your heart will be healthier because you are exercising but you may not get the results you are looking for. The goal of interval training is to fatigue the body with brief periods of high intensity exercise and then workout to longer interval periods to recover.
Examples of Interval Training:
For someone who walks regularly, it could mean doing a 10 minute warm up, picking up the pace to a fast walk for 30 seconds then going back to their usual walking pace for 2 minutes and continuing this for a set number of repetitions. For someone who jogs, runs, swims, etc., it’s the same concept. It could also mean walking or jogging for 1 full minute, slowing it down for 3 minutes to recover and continuing for a set number of repetitions. The choices are endless. The best thing about it is that you can change it up so you continue to shock your body and get way more results.
The best thing about interval training is that it provides a fantastic workout in a short period of time. Who doesn’t want to simplify their workouts and get the same benefits in a shorter period of time? I see the hands going up! Interval workouts use brief periods of higher intensity activity which results in decreased fat and increased strength and fitness. It burns more calories since the faster speeds tap into larger muscle fibers that aren’t usually used (this is why you feel your muscles so much after an interval training workout). The more energy you use, the more calories you burn. It also helps to speed up your metabolism. The body uses extra calories to repair muscles and replenish energy and you’ll keep burning calories after the workout is over. As you continue with interval training, your resting metabolism will increase (yay to that!).
My Personal Experience:
In my teens and 20’s I was always about 15 pounds heavier than I wanted to be. I wasn’t very knowledgeable about fitness other than knowing working out was good for me and would help someone lose weight. In my mid 20’s, I started reading more and understanding fitness and that is when I came across a book on interval training. The internet wasn’t a thing, yet (I know, what?) so finding information was tougher at that time. I read the benefits, started incorporating faster walking periods and as I got better, I started jogging during the faster intervals. I lost 15 pounds very quickly. I was shocked at how my fitness level changed. Interval training was a real game changer for me. I was finally at a weight that I was happy with and have stuck with the same weight (up and down 5 pounds) for the past 20 years. I am now close to 50 and still use interval training to maintain my weight. Of course, as we age, the sessions need to be catered to our abilities and we need more of a warm up to prevent injuries. I made the mistake last year doing some full-on sprints without a proper warm-up and ended up limping for days and unable to work out for a few weeks. I learned my lesson to warm up properly and ease into the workout. Also, as we get older, we shouldn’t be doing full-on sprints anymore unless it is something we have worked up to.
How to Start:
When starting this 7-day interval training program, you first need to be at a fitness level of being able to complete 30 minutes of exercise at least three times a week for a month. Once you’re at that level, you can start this program. As always, also check with your medical doctor for approval to start this or any fitness program. It is up to you whether you walk fast or jog during the fast intervals (if you have never jogged before then start with a fast walk for the first 4 weeks). The last thing you want is to get injured so please start slowly and work up to going as hard as you can. If you already regularly work out, you can work as hard as you can during the 1-minute fast periods. You need to cater the program to YOUR fitness level. Even though the program is specific, you can take extra days off or add in extra ‘active rest’ days if you feel you need them.
Over time (4-6 weeks), you can increase the intensity or the duration of the program and stick with the next updated program for another 4-6 weeks. When increasing the intensity or duration, you’ll also increase the time of the extra long workout on day 5 until you build up to walking/jogging for twice the length of your baseline time (in the workout I provided, our base time is 30 minutes). I’ll put up another 7-day program when we hit week 5.
A Few Rules:
1. If you feel exhausted after starting the interval training program, take an extra day off or do an extra shorter workout in between or after day 1 or 3. We are all different and you may need the extra day to recover.
2. Only work out 6 days a week at the most. You need one day to have a break and allow your muscles to recover. You can stretch on this day if you wish.
3. Stretch after each workout, especially the interval training days. Stretching is super important. Please don’t underestimate the importance of taking time to stretch. If you have a hard time finding time, try stretching on the floor while watching TV. Try to hold your stretches for at least 30 seconds or more and build up to a minute.
4. Even if you feel great, do NOT do more than two days of intense interval training a week (and always do a shorter workout in between the two days). You need time to recover. If you do more, you are likely to burn out and become exhausted. This is the last thing you want when you are working so hard to become more fit.
5. If you find it difficult managing a full minute during the hard part of the workout, slow down to a level where you feel you can manage the pace for the 1 minute. No one is watching you…go at the intensity that works for YOU. Or, work hard for 30 seconds and increase the slower portion to 2 1/2 minutes rather than the 2 minutes.
6. Take an easy week every 4-8 weeks. Choose a week to do something different. You can still work out each day but do something different and workout less intensely. Workouts of 20-30 minutes would be ideal for that week. You can either follow my 20-30 minute workouts or do something totally different (whatever you enjoy and whatever you find fun for fitness).
7. Listen to your body and don’t do movements that you think might aggravate an old injury. Although the exercises I do are safe, they might aggravate old injuries. You know yourself best. Modify any exercise that you think might bother you.
I hope this post helped you to understand the importance of interval training. Feel free to email me if you have any questions. I look forward to hearing from you and hearing how the program worked for you.
Wishing you improved health!